The Difference Between Krias Yam Suf and the Makkos

Vayomer Hashem el Moshe, “Lo yishma aleichem Pharaoh l’maan revos mofsai b’Eretz Mitzrayim” (Shemos 11:9)

Parashas Bo contains the final three makkos, which ultimately applied enough pressure on Pharaoh to cause him to relent and free the Jewish slaves. In Parashas Beshalach, Pharaoh quickly regretted his decision and pursued the fleeing slaves. He trapped them against Yam Suf, and only Hashem’s miraculous intervention to split the water enabled the Jewish people to escape. However, the sefer Keren L’Dovid points out that there was a fundamental difference between the miracles performed in Parashas Va’eira and Parashas Bo as Hashem brought the 10 makkos, and the miracles He performed in Parashas Beshalach at Yam Suf.

All the makkos were directed against the Egyptians. They did not demonstrate that Hashem actually loved the Jews; perhaps He was simply punishing the Egyptians for their ongoing cruelty and brutality. In each of the plagues, the change in the laws of nature that represented the miraculous component targeted the Egyptians, while the Jewish people continued living their normal lives in Goshen, without any actual miracles taking place for them.

This dynamic changed when the Jewish people arrived at Yam Suf. For the first time, Hashem changed the laws of nature for them, as He split the waters so that they could safely pass through. It was Moshe stretching out his hand over the sea to cause a return to the laws of nature (14:27) that brought about the death and destruction of the Egyptians. In contrast to the makkos, where the miracles were agents of punishment to the Egyptians and the Jews were simply saved by continuing to live naturally and not being impacted by the miracles, at the Yam Suf Hashem demonstrated His love for the Jewish people for the first time, as the miracles were performed on behalf of the Jewish people.

This distinction between the miracles of the makkos and the miracles at Yam Suf can also help us understand why Rashi writes (18:1) that Yisro came to join the Jewish people when he heard about the splitting of Yam Suf and the war against Amalek. Why didn’t hearing about the makkos also help motivate him to convert? The makkos did not demonstrate Hashem’s love for the Jewish people, and therefore Yisro was not yet impressed. Only when he heard about the love Hashem showed us through the miracles He performed at Yam Suf was he moved to come join us.

Similarly, Dovid Hamelech writes in Tehillim (106:7): “Avoseinu b’Mitzrayim lo hiskilu nifle’osecha — Our ancestors in Egypt did not comprehend Your wonders.” What was so unclear about the miracles in Egypt that caused them such confusion? Dovid stresses that b’Mitzrayim — in Egypt — they were unable to clarify whether Hashem performed the wonders out of love for them or simply to punish their Egyptian oppressors. Once they left Egypt, they no longer had this dilemma, because they saw clearly at Yam Suf just how much Hashem cared for them.

Rashi writes (15:22) that the spoils received by the Jews at Yam Suf were even greater than those they received when leaving Egypt one week earlier, which seems somewhat counterintuitive. Hashem promised Avraham Avinu that after being enslaved in a foreign land, the Jewish people would go out with tremendous treasure, in which case the spoils they received when initially going free were seemingly the primary fulfillment of this promise and should have been larger. Based on this insight, Harav Yisroel Reisman explains that Hashem wanted to show the Jewish people that His love for them is even greater than His hatred of the wicked Egyptians, and therefore He specifically wanted the booty received at Yam Suf to exceed that received at the end of the makkos.

Harav Reisman adds that this idea can also help us understand why the Pesach Haggadah teaches that the Egyptians received five times as many punishments at Yam Suf as they received through the makkos, which is difficult to understand: Weren’t the year-long makkos intended to be the primary punishment of the Egyptians? Harav Reisman explains that love is always stronger and more powerful than fear. Therefore, the punishments that were meted out in Egypt were dwarfed by those that occurred at Yam Suf, where Hashem revealed His intense love for the Jewish people.

Q: The Gemara in Yoma (75a) teaches that with the exception of five tastes, the mann tasted like whatever one wanted it to taste like. Did one eating it need to state the taste he desired, or was it sufficient merely to think it?

Q: How were the Jews able to fulfill the mitzvah of giving tzedakah in the wilderness when there were no needy Jews, as all of them received food and drink on a daily basis?

A: The Midrash Rabbah quotes a dispute about this very question. The Moshav Zekeinim maintains that one had to verbalize the desired taste, arguing that if thought were sufficient, there would be no need to “cook” one’s mann before Shabbos as they were commanded to do (16:23), as there would be no problem “cooking it” through thought on Shabbos.

A: Rabbeinu Bachya answers that those who collected their mann properly were able to share it with those who neglected to collect their mann before the sun melted it four hours into the day (16:21). The Chiddushei Harim suggests that the wealthier Jews were able to describe luxurious foods to the simple Jews so that they could select those tastes for their mann. Harav Aharon Leib Steinman, shlita, explains that they were still able to do other acts of kindness with their bodies to assist fellow Jews in need.


Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.